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The Supreme Court held that a general appearance after the entry of a final judgment that is void ab initio because of the absence of personal jurisdiction does not, by itself, convert the prior void judgment into a valid one. A landlord obtained a default judgment against a commercial tenant and its guarantor for unpaid rent. The judgment was void as to the guarantor because the landlord failed properly to serve the complaint on him. The circuit court, however, found that the guarantor had entered a general appearance during post-judgment enforcement proceedings and thereby waived any objection to the validity of the default judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying the guarantor’s motion to vacate the default judgment because the judgment was void as to the guarantor. View "McCulley v. Brooks & Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, in dismissing the Commonwealth’s petition to have Troy Lamar Giddens, Sr. civilly committed as a sexually violent predator, the trial court misapplied the relevant statute, Va. Code 37.2-905.1. Moreover, the evidence did not support dismissal. The trial court dismissed the Commonwealth’s petition, concluding that the burden was on the Commonwealth to prove that Giddens was eligible for the sexually violent predator program and that the Commonwealth failed to show that Giddens' score on Static-99, the test designed to assess the recidivism risk of adult male sexual offenders, was scored correctly. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Giddens did not show gross negligence or willful misconduct, which was required for him to prevail under section 37.2-905.1. View "Commonwealth v. Giddens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court admitting a will to probate, holding that the trial court properly admitted testimony to refute the claim that the will was fraudulent and did not err in declining to adopt a novel and more rigorous standard for admitting a will to probate. On appeal, Appellant argued that the trial court erred in considering testimony to establish the testamentary nature of the document proffered for probate and erred in failing to require the proponent of the will to authenticate all three pages of the document. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial court properly considered the challenged testimony to establish that the first two unsigned pages of the will were entirely consistent with the testator’s stated testamentary intentions and to refuse the assertion that they were not part of his original will; and (2) the will was properly authenticated. View "Canody v. Hamblin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences for the capital murder of two individuals within a three-year period in violation of Va. Code 18.2-31(8), holding that the punishments did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In a multi-count indictment, Defendant was charged with the capital murder of Ronald Kirby in 2013 and the capital murder of Ruthanne Lodato in 2014. Both counts relied upon Va. Code 18.2-31(8), which states that the “willful, deliberate and premeditated killing of more than one person within a three-year period” is capital murder. A jury found Defendant guilty of both charges, concluding that he murdered Kirby within three years of Lodato and that he murdered Lodato within three years of murdering Kirby. Prior to sentencing, Defendant argued that punishing him for two capital murder convictions under section 18.2-31(8) would violate double jeopardy. The trial court rejected the double jeopardy argument, convicted Defendant of two counts of capital murder, and imposed two life sentences. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not punished twice for on criminal act because “killing two victims at two different times in two different places constitutes two different criminal acts.” View "Severance v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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A majority of the Supreme Court held (1) Va. Code 56-49.01(A) allows a natural gas company to gain access to private property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other activities that are only necessary for the selection of the most advantageous route; and (2) the trial court did not misapply section 56-49.01 in this case. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP), which was engaged in the regulatory approval process to build a natural gas pipeline, sought permission to enter Landowners’ properties to conduct preliminary surveys and other activities. Landowners withheld their consent. ACP filed the instant second amended petition for declaratory judgment seeking an order affirming ACP’s authority to enter Landowners’ properties for the purposes defined in section 56-49.01. The trial court granted ACP permission to enter the properties to conduct the necessary activities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in its construction of section 56-49.01(A); and (2) the trial court’s application of section 56-49.01 was not improper. View "Barr v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC" on Justia Law

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The circuit court did not err when it ruled that Plaintiff, a retired firefighter, was not a disabled person entitled to receive health insurance benefits under the Virginia Line of Duty Death and Disability Act, Va. Code 9.1-400 et seq. Plaintiff was diagnosed with throat cancer after he retired from the fire department but did not experience any health problems while he worked as a firefighter. The circuit court concluded (1) under the plain reading of the Act, Plaintiff’s duties as a firefighter ceased as of his retirement; and (2) because Plaintiff became disabled after he retired, his claim for insurance coverage under the Act was not viable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not a “disabled person” under the Act because his incapacity did not prevent the “further performance” of his duties as a firefighter. Therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to continued health insurance coverage under the Act. View "Jones v. Von Moll" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the the judgment of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict awarding CGI Federal Inc. $12 million in damages for its fraudulent inducement and breach of contract claims against FCi Federal, Inc., holding that the circuit court did not commit reversible error in its judgment. This lawsuit related to a teaming agreement entered between the parties to obtain a federal government contract. After the jury rendered its verdict, the circuit court set it aside on the grounds that the teaming agreement did not obligate FCi to extend a subcontract to CGI and that CGI did not prove fraud damages. The court further granted FCi’s motion for summary judgment on CGI’s alternative claim for unjust enrichment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) overturning the jury’s verdict on the breach of contract claim; (2) vacating the jury’s award of damages for the fraudulent inducement claim because CGI cannot recover any lost profits on this claim; and (3) entering summary judgment for FCi on the unjust enrichment claim because CGI may not recover on a quasi-contractual claim that is otherwise precluded by a contract which CGI has affirmed. View "CGI Federal Inc. v. FCi Federal, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing, without prejudice, this derivative action on the ground that Plaintiff failed to first make a demand for the limited liability company (LLC) to take action, holding that the 2011 amendments to Va. Code 13.1-1042 did not abolish the futility exception to the demand requirement as established by use law preceding enactment of the statute. Plaintiff, derivatively on behalf of an LLC, filed a complaint alleging that Defendants had breached their fiduciary duties towards the LLC. Defendants filed a plea in bar and demurrer, alleging that the complaint was barred because Plaintiff had not made a proper demand as required by section 13.1-1042. The circuit court granted the plea in bar and dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that a demand was not required when doing so would be futile. Defendants responded that the 2011 amendments to section 13.1-1042 abolished the futility exception. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the General Assembly did not abrogate the futility exception when it amended section 13.1-1042 in 2011, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint. View "Davis v. MKR Development, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

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The circuit court did not err in declaring the constitutional validity of Virginia General Assembly legislative districts that were allegedly drawn in violation of the compartment requirement expressed in Va. Const. art. II, 6. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against the Virginia State Board of Elections and several of its officers in their official capacities, seeking a declaratory judgment that the challenged legislative districts violate the Virginia Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the challenged districts were not, in fact, compact as constitutionally required. The circuit court denied Plaintiffs’ request that the challenged district be declared unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that evidence was presented at trial that would lead reasonable and objective people to differ regarding the compactness of the challenged districts and confirming the constitutional validity of the legislative districts under the fairly debatable standard applied to determinations made by the legislature. View "Vesilind v. Board of Elections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of Patricia Gerald and her daughter, Tarsha Gerald, with driving while on a suspended license, third or subsequent offense, and perjury arising from testimony they gave in the Albemarle County General District Court. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the Geralds’ perjury convictions; (2) venue for prosecution of the Gerald’ perjury charges was proper in Albemarle County because, even where the perjury was committed in the Albemarle County Courthouse, which was located in the City of Charlottesville, venue for prosecution of crimes committed in the Albemarle County Courthouse is proper in either Albemarle County or the City of Charlottesville; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support Tarsha’s conviction for driving while on a suspended license. View "Gerald v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law